The world witnesses a handful of meteor showers every year. However, if there is one metor shower which is most spectacular then it is Geminid meteor shower.
Sky gazers in Delhi and elsewhere in the country can watch Geminid meteor shower display from Wednesday night till the early hours of December 14, if clouds and light pollution do not play spoilsport.
What is meteor shower?
Rocks and dust particles from space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids and those that streak through the atmosphere are called meteors.
Generally, comets, which are chunks of ice having lots of dust come close to the Sun. By the Sun’s radiation, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet. If the Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a trail of debris of dust particles, the small dust particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere with considerable speed.
By friction in the atmosphere, the particles then burn up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors called meteor showers.
Where to watch Geminid meteor shower 2017
“This year the Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak on the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14. The shower will start at around 10 pm on December 13 when the Gemini constellation will be visible in the north-eastern sky, a little above and right of the familiar Orion constellation,” Debiprosad Duari , director, MP Birla Planetarium told PTI.
"The shower is predicted to be at its maximum at around 2am on December 14, when the Gemini constellation will be almost overhead and the number of meteors can reach up to 120 per hour," he added.
While the shower is named because the meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini, one doesn't need to pinpoint the constellation to find the meteors.
In fact, looking directly at Gemini will only show you the handful of meteors that don't travel far. You should look slightly away from the constellation for the best viewing.
According to Duari, though the Geminid meteor shower appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini, it is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983.
Generally, the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon, a 5.1km piece of rock, peaks around second week of December and some astronomers believe the asteroid may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into creating the meteor shower.
According to Robin Scagell, vice-president of Australia's Society for Popular Astronomy, one should see one or two meteors a minute on an average, 90 per hour under really good conditions is a good possibility.
However, NASA, in a tweet, said that one should be able to see 60 Geminid meteors this years.
Heads-up, Earthlings! The annual Geminid meteor shower has arrived, peaking overnight Dec. 13-14. It's a good time to bundle up! Then, go outside and let the universe blow your mind! Get the details: https://t.co/uv9HpEO228 pic.twitter.com/tZOSn0TZjH— NASA (@NASA) December 13, 2017
Unlike last year when the moon provided a little interference, there's going to be damn near perfect viewing conditions for the celestial show this year. The moon will be just 10% full, according to the American Meteor Society.